For the first time in my life, I am worried for the future of our democracy. As the expenses crisis deepens, here are a few observations.
* while MP’s from all parties have been ‘ caught out’ by careless accounting and unjustified claims, I was particularly outraged by money claimed to dredge a moat, fix piping under a tennis court and trim wisteria on a country cottage.
* I don’t want to see political leaders playing at being very angry, because they think that is the way to deflect the public’s fury. It’s too late for all that, and anyway, it is a form of political play, judging by the comments of those like Andrew Mackay who said that his conversation with David Cameron about his resignation was ‘very friendly’
* these revelations come in a wider context. For instance, Letwin’s tennis court claims jostle in my head with memories of the man’s unbelievable arrogance a few years ago, when he said that he would rather ‘beg, borrow or steal’ than send his children to the local struggling secondary school, Lilian Baylis……………
* …………stopping that angry train of thought right there…….I can see where so much of this expenses crisis anger is coming from, a fury that could be heard audibly on BBC’s Question Time last night where members of the audience were heckling the most downcast and furtive looking group of MP’s I have ever seen. People are angry not just about this week’s revelations; they are angry about the revelations in the wider context of the kind of society we live in, the inequality between citizens, the arrogance of a certain class, riding high since Thatcherism, and a political class that agree about most things and yet have not tackled some of the pressing inequalities in our society.
* for this reason, I think it vital that we don’t descend into cynicism, manipulated by an amoral press, who are having a field day exploiting and exposing the human weaknesses of the political class. As the expenses crisis unfolds, right wing parties put out their ugly propaganda and attract votes on the basis that ‘ they’re all the same, out for themselves, not protecting British people etc.’
This is a really worrying development and makes it vitally important that those of us who believe in democracy, and the power of democracy to effect genuine change, do not slide into a parallel cynicism or apathy.
For this reason, and borrowing from lessons learned at times of personal crisis, I can see this is an important turning point. And a turning point always involves a choice, put crudely, between negative defeatism or genuine change, on the basis of objective analysis.
This is such a moment of choice for our parliamentary system and politicians that goes far beyond a cleaned up expenses process. This crisis must be a spring board for a shift in politics, the emergence of a new generation and type of political leaders, and a politics more concerned with the hard slog of promoting social justice than enriching the egos or purses of particular individuals.